On Wednesday, the day after the ruling was announced, Delle Donna from his $7,700-per-year office. A new mayor was to be chosen later to lead the tiny, 12-by-4-block waterfront town.
Delle Donna resigned as of noon that day - the day after his 50th birthday - and said it had been an honor to represent the people of Guttenberg for the last seven years. He said that he had done the job honorably and faithfully.
"No one in the world can convince me that I did anything to dishonor my office," Delle Donna said in a telephone interview. "I never sold my office to a developer, a contractor, a business, a resident, or a friend. But throughout my public life, I have tried to help legally anyone who needed help. I believe I still have the confidence of the people in this town, and that anyone who knows me won't believe any of these charges."
The main charge leveled against Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, was that they accepted gifts and donations from a controversial town bar owner, Luisa Medrano, who testified in court that she wanted favors from the couple.
Delle Donna admitted on Wednesday that he perhaps let a few people into his life that were less than honorable. He said federal authorities built their case against him and his wife based on the unreliable testimony of such people.
Besides Medrano, another witness against Delle Donna was Gov. Jon Corzine's deputy chief of staff, Javier Inclan, who used to be a Guttenberg councilman and who served as Delle Donna's campaign treasurer. Inclan testified that he helped pass envelopes containing campaign donations to Delle Donna.
Some have asked why Inclan has not been investigated, and why Corzine said he would keep him on staff even after the conviction was returned on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Inclan resigned from the governor's staff.
As for Medrano, who was friends with the mayor and his wife, she testified that she had given a long list of gifts to the couple in an effort to keep the Guttenberg Alcohol Beverage Control board from closing down her bar. She also testified that she wanted the mayor's help to get approval to convert one of her bars into apartments.
Medrano was charged in 2005 with forced labor, alien smuggling, and harboring illegal aliens in connection with young women who worked in her bar. But she pleaded guilty to lesser charges, apparently in exchange for her testimony against the Delle Donnas.
"My wife had a friendship with this woman [before Medrano's legal trouble], and we received gifts on Christmas and birthdays," Delle Donna explained last week. "We even became godparents to her sister's kids. I don't understand how federal prosecutors turned that into a crime."
He added, "I don't fault the jury. They got hit with a lot of information and had a lot to digest. They had to analyze it and they didn't just go in and run back out [with their verdict]."
The jury took five days to deliberate.
"In hindsight, the friendship might not have been the smartest thing I've done," he said. "I never violated my office."
The jury found the Delle Donnas guilty of three of the five counts.
Delle Donna: I barely helped Medrano
Although he sits on the Guttenberg ABC board, Delle Donna said he reclused himself from its decisions both times the matter came before the board.
"I wasn't involved in those decisions," he said.
He did admit asking the building inspector whether or not Medrano needed to go before the Planning Board to convert the bar into apartments. Delle Donna said this was a two-minute conversation and he did not pressure the inspector.
Anna Delle Donna, the mayor's wife, was a member of the Planning Board, but resigned when charges were filed against them late last year.
"I was looking for information, and since this was going from a non-conforming use as a bar to a conforming use, he told me all she needed to do was get the permits," Delle Donna said. "This got twisted in court. We have a small town. Building inspectors work four hours a day. It is not unusual for people to come to me and ask for help."
Delle Donna, who celebrated his 50th birthday Tuesday, noted, "The jury didn't know any of us. My wife and I are open and friendly to everyone in our lives. As it turned out, some these people were less than honorable. Here is a woman who was charged with being the ringleader to human trafficking. No one confiscated her property. In fact, she is at this moment suing the town to get her license back."
Irony with Inclan
During the interview, Delle Donna laughed at the irony of the situation, claiming he was "laughing out loud, but crying inside."
He added, "How do people on the jury decide things when they don't know much about the workings of our town? They are 12 people who would rather be at work or home."
The jury apparently rejected testimony by Inclan, who claimed to have given Delle Donna envelopes Inclan "believed" contained $3,000 in cash campaign contributions.
Delle Donna said he never received those envelopes, and testified in court that either Inclan kept these for himself, or they didn't exist.
"Obviously the jury didn't believe Inclan, because we were found innocent on those two charges," Delle Donna said.
Brian J. Neary, the attorney for Anna Delle Donna, asked during the trial why Inclan had not been indicted for passing the envelopes. Indeed, former Freeholder Nidia Colon recently finished almost two years in federal prison on charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's office for delivering envelopes of cash to former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski.
A statement from Gov. Jon Corzine's office last week said that Inclan would remain on the staff, but Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson issued a strong statement saying Inclan should be fired and charged.
On Wednesday, Inclan voluntarily resigned.
Delle Donna said last week that he helped Inclan advance politically, and felt betrayed by the false accusation.
"Without the people in the local area, Javier wouldn't be where he is today," Delle Donna said. "He forgets where he comes from. But he knows damned well I wouldn't take any money. While I understand most of the other witnesses had their backs to the wall and had to testify, I don't understand why Javier said what he said."
Impact on family
The full impact of the verdict on the Della Donnas and their children was felt immediately. David and Anna hugged each other as their 17-year-old daughter wept. The mayor's stepson was escorted out of the court after shouting at U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and his group of prosecutors.
"While I would still be upset, the impact on my family really bothers me," Delle Donna said. "I wasn't on trial alone. My wife was on trial with me."
The jury had heard testimony from Delle Donna's defense attorney about how the Delle Donnas met when David was 21 and Anna was 30, and how she is "psychologically unstable and on medication, under therapy and psychiatric care. "
U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in a statement to the press last week said this was a matter of justice.
"We take no joy in the jury's verdict," Christie said. "But it is this office's responsibility to bring justice to those public officials who break the law. The jury found that the defendants traded on their public positions, and they have been brought to justice."
Under federal guidelines, David and Anna face 51 to 78 months in federal prison and are scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Harold A. Ackerman on Sept. 4.
Delle Donna said his and his wife's attorneys will shortly file a motion to dismiss the convictions.